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“WHEN WE MEET REAL TRAGEDY IN LIFE, WE CAN REACT IN TWO WAYS – EITHER BY LOSING HOPE…OR BY USING THE CHALLENGE TO FIND OUR INNER STRENGTH..” – DALAI LAMA
My name is Maria and this is my story:
Our story opens with me sobbing uncontrollably in nothing but a hospital gown, alone and terrified out of my mind.
The hallway floor I’m sitting on is frigid but I don’t really notice. I’m working up to a massive panic attack. For the first time in my life, I’ve completely lost my freedom and it has destroyed me.
I’m on hour 30 of a 72 hour involuntary hold in a psych ward. I’m seething with rage and fear having just come from my first interaction with a psychiatrist which was the opposite of therapeutic.
But…at my lowest point, at my most broken, I discover something truly extraordinary. The thing about being so very destroyed is that you have nothing left to lose. Everything somehow becomes opaque, the rest of the world becomes a blur and finally, you can see the pure stuff of your soul oozing through the cracks.
SO, I RISE UP.
I rise up. In a surreal moment I seem to leave my body, no longer the same person but a powerful new woman fighting for the girl crying in the hallway like no one has before. I demand to speak to a therapist.
When I see that counselor I find my voice to tell her to shut up, shut up and listen to me instead of giving me the party line. We end up having an extremely productive discussion. I arrange for my diet to be catered to in the dining hall. In this place where I’m just a number I am my best and only advocate.
I leave still broken but with a commitment to provide comfort to myself and others going through this hell. I will never let the girl in the hallway be alone and powerless again.
My name is Maria and this is my story.
BELIEVE IT OR NOT, STORIES HAVE POWER.
Your story makes a huge difference in how you see and impact the world. That moment in the hospital was brutal; way more harrowing than I would have wanted for an awakening.
But is wasn’t nearly as brutal as it is for so many other people especially those coming from LGBTQ, Black, African American, Indigenous, Female and LatinX communities. Their voices go unheard and they are statistically more likely to be abused, ignored, and misdiagnosed while in care.
Our national awareness of mental health issues is tenuous at best and the system is woefully broken, especially in my state of Florida where our system ranks 50th (out of 50 states) in mental health care.
My mission is to advocate for all vulnerable people, to provide curated resources on this blog specific to mental health crises/situations, and continually push the conversation on mental wellness in this country.
I will not let my story end in the hospital, I will use it to help others to rise up.
Rise with me.
UPDATE APRIL 14TH 2020
My Name is Maria and this is my story but now there are more chapters.
On February 16th 2019, I was admitted to our local behavioral healthcare system as an inpatient. It was my very first hospitalization and I was scared to death. It didn’t go well I ended up being pretty traumatized by the lack of appropriate care I and other patients received.
As I lay sobbing in the hall of the psych ward wondering where it had all gone wrong, I vowed to never let another mental health patient’s voice go unheard. I wanted to make sure no other vulnerable soul got thrown into the jaws of the beast known as the American Behavioral Healthcare system.
A DIFFICULT YEAR
A year later, I kept that solemn promise, but it sure wasn’t easy.
It took a month to see a psychiatrist on the outside and two months to speak with the therapist assigned by the hospital. And that was considered a quick turnaround in Florida’s Behavioral Healthcare system. Yikes!
Luckily the hospital had set me up with enough meds to last until my next appointment, but there was no one to talk to. If I was so inclined, I could have easily ended up back in the ER 20 times before I got to speak to a counselor.
I have the privilege of a great support system (something not everyone else has) and insurance from my job so I was able to set myself up with an Intensive Outpatient Treatment for my OCD. The place I went, Rogers Behavioral Health, was absolutely incredible and I thank goodness every day for finding them.
Even with all that intervention, I still had some terrible days. A month or two after I was discharged from Rogers, I found myself slipping back into the same patterns of perfectionism and self-exhaustion. I just couldn’t seem to help myself.
A TOUGH BUT NECESSARY CHOICE
So I did the only thing I could do – I quit my big girl job, the one I loved, so I could focus on my mental health full time. Let me tell you that was a hell of a leap, my husband and I are in no means wealthy and I knew the decision was going to cost me my healthcare benefits but we decided it was best for me.
Someone once told me, “positive change hardly feels positive in the beginning” and boy was I going through it. I felt such a sense of failure, like all the wind had been taken out of me for a couple weeks. I cussed myself for “not being strong enough” ; for not being able to function in society like everyone else.
It was then I started writing in earnest on My Soul Balm. I had already been putting out content here and there but now I was really rolling, finding my voice as I worked through my pain.
TURNING PAIN INTO PRIVILEGE, TURNING PRIVILEGE INTO A PLATFORM
At first I was pretty angry. I felt outraged that a person could be treated so poorly when they just needed help.I was mad that the world was such an unsafe place for me as a highly sensitive person with OCD. I still struggle with it. But now I let that fuel my passion for justice instead of bringing me down.
You see, privileged as I was (and still am as a white CIS woman), hospitalization was my first brush with oppression. But it’s nothing compared to what minorities and low income patients go through every day when trying to access mental health care.
I had the good fortune of hoisting myself into treatment when I was let down by the system – most people don’t. There are so many vulnerable people who get caught in this terrible cycle of poor treatment, slim resources, and stigmatization. And that’s who I write for now.
I write for those who have been let down by the system, for those who can’t find resources that relate to their experiences.
Ironically, though, I’m dreaming of a day when my voice is heard less in favor of those who have been traditionally rendered voiceless. I want to get people connected to the resources they need, not the ones we think they should need.
A lot has happened in a year, I think the quality of content I put out on MSB reflects how much I’ve grown. I’ve definitely had ups, downs, and everything in between but through it all I am proudly growing MSB into a platform for all kinds of writers to share their voices and their struggles with mental health.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP SHARE THE UNIQUE VOICES OF MENTAL HEALTH?
The easiest way to help is to share your story! You may feel like it’s not important but hearing someone’s story of survival or success has the power to change lives.
Even if you haven’t personally struggled with mental health issues, you can still help as a blogger/writer by sharing the voices of mental health on your site. You can also tell your friends, retweet an awesome article by a small blogger, or write a book review. Anything and everything helps us get the word out there.
In conclusion, I’m glad my life didn’t end that day in February. I’m grateful I didn’t choose to get torn under by the traumatic events that followed. And I’m chuffed that I can be here to help others through their pain.
I’m Maria and that’s my story, just one of the many waiting to be told <3
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